Editorial: Adopting a new normal
With this Wednesday’s news that Gov. Scott is looking to soon open indoor seating for restaurants, fitness centers and other moves that signal a further opening of the state’s economy, the caveat all Vermonters should embrace is that such openings must be greeted with heightened awareness of how to keep each other safe in this still precarious environment.
The environment remains precarious not because of the current rate of Covid-19 incidence in Vermont, but because of its continued spread in states around us, and the fact that Vermont’s summer tourism attracts people from across the nation and world. The potential to spread Covid-19 within the state is an obvious concern, but also a necessary risk because of the enormous economic benefit that influx of business has on Vermonters’ livelihoods.
But just honing in on the threat posed by neighboring states, Scott noted that New Hampshire, whose population is double Vermont’s, has had 240 new Covid-19 cases since this past Sunday and 43 deaths. Massachusetts, with 7 million residents, has had 2,000 positive cases and 675 deaths since Sunday. Vermont, meanwhile, posted 13 new cases since Sunday and no new deaths.
“Our careful, cautious approach must continue,” Scott said at Wednesday’s news conference. Most Vermonters agree, but many also recognize the need for the state’s economy to re-engage if it is to survive. How well Vermonters manage this balancing act will largely be up to local residents and the expectations we put on the state’s many visitors.
If locals model good behavior (wearing masks in public places, social distancing, and politely encouraging those around them do the same), then the prospects for keeping the rates of Covid-19 incidences low is greatly enhanced. If we, as a state, dismiss with such cautious protocols, the worst case scenarios could be state-mandated moves to temporarily close sectors or regions of the economy until the infection rate subsides.
The governor and Vermonters have done an excellent job so far in managing this pandemic. We all must recognize that the tougher challenge will be restarting the economy before too much damage is done and without creating a second wave of infection that puts us back into lockdown. Difficult questions lie ahead with the opening of child care centers, summer camps and schools, but with the good grace Vermonters have shown in the past three months, we have high hopes that resolutions will be found and we’ll work together to implement them with everyone’s best interest at heart.